Archive for June, 2017

Luke 1

Luke 1 has the writer telling us why he is putting pen to paper.  It was to “to write an orderly account for you….that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught”.  Luke was the detailed writer of the four gospel writers – with a lot of attention to order and detail.  He begins the story he will tell with Zechariah and Elizabeth.  They were “both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord”.  A priest and his barren wife, both old in age, but committed to walking with God and obeying His commandments.

Zechariah is in the temple leading some prayer and worship when the angel Gabriel comes to him. He is told that his wife will bear a son and “he will be  great before the Lord….he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb….to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared”.  This child will become a messenger for the coming Messiah.  Zechariah has a bit of a problem believing what he has just heard, so the angel says “you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words”.  Faith requires that we believe what we can’t see.  Zechariah struggles and is mute until John is born.

That in itself was a miracle, but it was only the precursor of what God was going to do. An angel comes to Mary saying “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you! But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be”.  A little more struggling with faith.  The angel continues and says “you have found favor with God”.  That had to be quite overwhelming.  But the angel goes on.  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called  holy— the Son of God”.  Wow – what a message.  She questions a bit but is told this reality: “nothing will be impossible with God”.  And after that, Mary believes it and changes her attitude saying “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word”.  All in, ready to do God’s plan.

It was like she flipped a switch. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant”.  She knows she isn’t worthy, but she is willing and God uses those who are willing to do His will.  John is born to Elizabeth and Zechariah and his tongue is loosed and his speech restored.  We learn that John would “go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God”.  God truly loves us all, and had a plan to provide a way for us to be set free from the penalty of our sin.  John is the messenger to prepare the way for the Lord.  “And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel”.

Mark 16

Mark 16 picks up with Jesus in the tomb, or is He?  “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him”.  Some of the women who had followed Him to the Cross and watched Him die, come early the day after Sabbath Day to put spices around the body.  They did recognize a potential problem – the big rock Joseph had put in front of the tomb.  “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb”?  They knew it was much bigger than they could move on their own.

They arrive and find that the stone had been rolled back so they enter the tomb and “they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed”. Talk about a shock.  You just don’t expect someone to be sitting there in a dead man’s tomb.  But this isn’t just any dead person.  This was Jesus.  The stranger told them to “See the place where they laid him”.  He obviously was gone, but they needed to see it for themselves.  And then they were sent to “go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee”.  It’s exactly what Jesus had told the disciples himself, but now that He was alive it was time to tell them again.

So “they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid”.  They didn’t do a great job telling the disciples, but Mary Magdalene did tell a couple of them.  Jesus begins to show Himself to the twelve, but they couldn’t believe their eyes or ears.  So “he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen”.  Faith isn’t about what makes sense or seems reasonable.  Faith if believing things unseen.  It’s the foundation of Christianity.

Jesus commissions them to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation”.  That’s what each of us as Christ Followers are to do.  The message is powerful and needed.  “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned”.  We have the cure to the biggest problem the world has ever seen – sin.  That cure is God’s grace provided through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross.  And He Himself commanded us to go and tell the world – all the world – of that free gift of grace. It’s why He came to this earth.  And once He had commissioned the disciples, He was ready to return to the Father.  “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them,  was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God”.

Thoughts From Others – My Sermon Notes from Sunday – Church on Fire – Acts 20:17-38

Mark 15

Mark 16 has Jesus being hauled before Pilate to stand trial.  The religious leaders were throwing everything they could think of and make up at Jesus, but Pilate wasn’t buying it.  He asked Jesus what He had to say for Himself, “But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed”.  It was what God had planned for Him – to die a criminal’s death on the cross – and Jesus doesn’t even fight for His life.  He merely follows God’s plan.  Pilate continues to question Him but finds no reason for their accusations. Pilate wants to let Jesus go and asks “Why, what evil has he done”?

The crowd had been worked up into a frenzy by the religious leaders who had chanted to release a murderer named Barabbas.  Some things never change.  This outburst had nothing to do with anything Jesus had done beyond threatening to change what the religious leaders had come to expect and depend on.  It was all about money and political clout.  “So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified….and they called together the whole battalion”.  They were taking no chances getting Jesus to the Cross.

Jesus is scourged, beaten, spit upon, and totally mistreated as He went to the cross.  It happened as scripture had foretold it.  The soldiers and crowd mocked Him and made fun of His power.  “He saved others; he cannot save himself”.  They challenged Him to come down from the cross and save Himself.  But that wasn’t His mission, so “when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour”.  God was doing something big with Jesus death – He was providing us grace to cover our sin.  And those who were there watching saw the power of God happen right before their eyes when Jesus gave up His last breath.

After He died, “Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus”.  A bit risky for a member of the Council, but Joseph knew there was something special about Jesus.  So he went to Pilate and asked for the body.  “Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and  laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb”.  He didn’t know it, but he too was part of fulfilling the prophecy of Scripture about the Son of God.

Mark 14

Mark 14 has Jesus preparing to come to Jerusalem for the Passover.  The religious leaders wanted Him dead before the feast.  “The chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him”.  They were afraid of an uprising of the people if they did it during the holy celebration, so they wanted to arrest and prosecute Him before that.  Judas Iscariot turns out to be their tool as he became more and more frustrated that Jesus wasn’t going to become the political leader that he wanted.  “Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them”.  Judas thought he was part of Jesus’ becoming the king – a political agenda – and it wasn’t happening to his satisfaction.

Judas signed on to betray Jesus just before the Last Supper was held in the Upper Room.  Can you imagine Jesus being there with His Twelve, knowing that one sitting in that very room would soon hand Him over to the authorities.  “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me”.  Of course, as Jesus shared that truth, everyone was astonished and asking “Is it I”?  They could not believe that one of their group who had followed Jesus together for nearly three years would betray Him.  But Jesus makes it clear: “It is  one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me”.

The betrayal takes place in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus had told them “You will all fall away, for it is written, I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered”.  Of course, the now eleven disciples denied that they would deny Christ, particularly Peter, who became a bit indignant at that thought.  He said “If I must die with you, I will not deny you. And they all said the same”.  Of course, history shows us that while their initial response to the confrontation with the authorities was strong, they quickly scattered leaving Jesus alone.  Peter hangs around the shadows but soon denies Him three times and then the rooster crows.

So Jesus is dragged into court alone.  He had prayed fervently to God: “Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will”.  Jesus didn’t have to die.  He CHOSE to die because He knew it was the Father’s plan and will for Him.  He had come to earth as a man to bring a way for us to overcome the penalty of sin – the payment of the price on the Cross – so that anyone who believed and received that gift of grace could have eternal life.  As He stood before the High Priest who questioned Him, Jesus said “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and  coming with the clouds of heaven”. Jesus gave His life, not because He had to, but because He loved the Father and all of us.  That love provides the grace we need to be able to be set free from our sin and stand in holiness before God on judgment day!

Mark 13

Mark 13 has Jesus talking with His Twelve about the future.  Peter, James, John and Andrew, the two sets of brothers, pull Jesus aside and ask Him about the end times.  Jesus describes some of the things that will be part of that period of time, but in this chapter really focuses on what we need to do in order to be ready.  “Be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and  kings for my sake, to bear witness before them”.  He doesn’t focus on the things of the world that will be happening as much as on the mindset and preparation we need to have as Christ Followers to be prepared to deal with the persecution that will come.

He does go on to tell us one of the requirements that must be complete before He returns.  “And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations”.  Jesus isn’t coming back until every nation has been proclaimed the gospel.  There are several organizations that track progress in this process, and while there are still many people groups that haven’t been reached, with the advent of technology and new ways to share the gospel, that number is actually dwindling rather quickly.  It is possible that every nation will have had a chance to hear the gospel in our generation.

Jesus goes on to explain what will happen as His return approaches. Christ Followers will be rounded up and brought before the rulers to give account for their belief. “And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit”.  God won’t leave nor forsake us.  The Holy Spirit will be with us.  We have a loving God who will be right beside us providing us the words we need to deal with whatever comes our way.

Yet over and over Jesus tells us to “be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand”.  He uses the words ‘be on guard’ three times in this chapter alone.  We are to pay attention to what is happening around us.  A bit later in the discussion with His disciples He says again “Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come”.  He adds another request – that they stay awake.  And He reinforces that as He tells them “Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come….what I say to you I say to all:  Stay awake”.  Jesus is coming back.  We need to be on our guard for the false teachers that will try and claim they are Him.  But we also need to stay awake and be ready for that time because it is coming soon!

Mark 12

Mark 12 has Jesus telling a parable about the owner of a vineyard and how the workers continually beat or killed the people that the owner sent to get some of the production thinking they would just keep it all for themselves.  It was a parable about the way the religious leaders responded to God’s messengers – the prophets and leaders He anointed and sent – who for centuries had been mistreated by those who claimed power in the synagogue.  Jesus makes it pretty clear, and they almost get it.  “And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them”.  Not the quickest bunch in the world, but they are starting to catch on.

The religious leaders come and ask Jesus what the most important commandment is.  “Which commandment is the most important of all”?  There’s quite a bit of scripture out there, but Jesus doesn’t hesitate at all.  “The most important is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”.  What’s the most important thing for everyone of us – our relationship with God.  That’s the bottom line – God wants us to love Him and be in a deep and living relationship with Him.  Not in just a casual acquaintance kind of way – but with ALL of us in every way!

But He doesn’t stop there.  He gives them the second as well.  “The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment  greater than these”.  So the commandment doesn’t end with our relationship with God.  It continues to those in our patch, and Jesus defines ‘neighbor’ in other places in scripture.  The two commandments are tied together by one word – LOVE.  God wants us to love Him as He has loved us, and to love those around us.  That should describe our life – we are lovers of God and lovers of people.  It is the heart of God.

Jesus wraps up His teaching by talking about giving.  “He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two  small copper coins, which make a penny”.  So you have some putting in large amounts, and this widow who gives a penny.  The world would say it is obvious which is more important to the work of the ministry.  Pennies don’t fund much.  But Jesus sees it differently.  “This poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on”.  It isn’t the amount that matters, it is the heart. Just like the two great commandments – it is all about the heart.  Where is your heart when it comes to God?

Mark 11

Mark 11 has Jesus continuing to teach the Twelve and minister to the people.  He comes into Jerusalem in style, riding on a donkey with people preparing the way along His route with palm branches and much noise.  As “he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons”.  This has been going on for years, but Jesus isn’t about leaving the status quo alone.  He is about moving people toward obedience and God.

You can imagine how that went over with the establishment of religious leaders.  Not only was He challenging their methods and approach, He was messing with their money and how they created income.  So “the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching”.  The religious leaders could sense their control was slipping away, and they wanted no part of watching that erode.  So they begin to focus on removing the threat whom they deemed to be Jesus.

He teaches his disciples about the power of prayer as they were walking along the road.  He used a fig tree to get their attention.  Then He makes it crystal clear.  “Have  faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, Be taken up and thrown into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours”.  If you wonder what power is available through prayer – it’s limited only to the level of our faith.  Jesus gave us the keys to the kingdom when it comes to prayer.

But there is one more thing He teaches about prayer.  “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that  your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your trespasses”.  Prayer is a matter of the heart.  First it is about faith and believing that God is in control of all things and not only can but will do what He says.  But secondly, it is about relationship and making things right with others.  We have to be willing to forgive to truly set the power of prayer loose in our lives.  That’s often where people struggle.  They think hanging on to past wrongs puts them in a place of power over someone.  In face, it limits our prayer life and hurts us.  We need to forgive and set people free so we can receive that same forgiveness from the Father!

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